Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pan Flu

Pandemic flu or, as the insiders call it, “Pan Flu” could change your life. I have now attended two all-day conferences in different states and had long talks with several state and county leaders tapped with planning for this event that “is not a matter of if, but when.” I have seen a variety of people explain what Pan Flu is, how it will affect us, “what we need to do” and what “the plan” is. These folks ranged from the head doc at Department of Homeland Security (he gets it) to a Governor (who didn’t get it) to Senators (clueless) to branch heads of organizations like Salvation Army (they call it “Sal Army”), the Surgeon General’s office, state level emergency management types, medical types, law enforcement types and so on.

I have been following this issue for about two years now and I reckon I’ll share what I know and what I think on the issue. I will tell you right up front (and it should come as no surprise, really) that we will be on our own and I have taken steps to ensure the survival of me and mine. I suggest you do likewise.

What we know
First off, we (the BIG WE) don’t know a lot – we don’t know if the current virus will mutate into a pandemic, let alone when. But there are a lot of really big brains spending a lot of time looking at it and there are some very educated guesses being made. “But Joe, you said, it’s not a matter of if, but when”. Yep – that is an educated….guess. After you read this, if you are interested (you should be) do some of your own research. Make your own educated guess for you and your family. Start here: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ then follow your nose.

In a nutshell, the current “Bird Flu” is H5N1 – they name the different strains. It infects primarily birds but may have jumped to some other species. It DID jump to humans – humans who basically lived with their fowl. How foul is that? They are pretty sure, that the virus mutated to a form that could pass from human to human – with difficulty. So, no need to panic yet. Basically mom’s getting if from their feverish daughters who they held in their arms. Every time a new person gets it, it has a chance to mutate again – eventually, the fear is, it will mutate to a form that is easily spread from one human to another. That’s when the pandemic starts. Humans have never had a large chunk of this form of virus before – we have no immunity. Currently, the mortality rate in those who get it is very high – something like 70 – 90%.

We have to wait until the first person gets a form that easily passes to another person so we can draw some blood and produce a vaccine to save humanity. PROBLEM: It will then take six months to develop said vaccine. By then the pandemic will have been around the world once and be on its way around a second time. They think it will come in three waves.They think the mortality rate of this form of the flu will not be as high as it currently is – but they all think it’s gonna be high. They don’t believe the numbers they are putting out – I have spoken with them and looked them in the eye. They are downplaying it for the masses.

It takes six months to produce a vaccine now – when everyone is healthy, happy and going to work. That will not be the case.

The official figures expect a 30% absentee rate from work due to sickness, folks staying home to care for the sick, and folks staying home because they fear getting sick. I expect much higher rates of employee absenteeism. It just got harder to produce and distribute that vaccine…

Playing checkers when they should be playing chess
They (yeah, “They”) have been gradually approaching the idea that they are going to have to enforce “social distancing”. Basically keeping non-family members at least six (although some say 40) feet apart. I think when the first case of human to human pan flu hits our shores, schools and daycare centers will be closed. Now someone is gonna have to stay home to watch the kids – more employee absenteeism. How will it work on the plant floor? Or at the grocery store? What about our infrastructure then?

To a large extent, business in the US works on the “Just In Time” principal. Nobody stocks up on excess merchandise. When they need something, they order it and it shows up. Consider your local funeral home. You don’t think they have a warehouse full of caskets out back, do you? No way – you pick one out and he orders it shipped right now. This is very economical. It’s very efficient. As long as the wheels keep turning. When people stop showing up to work in large numbers, the system is gonna be hurting. But all planning I’ve seen is based on most people showing up. They are playing checkers when they should be playing chess.

I asked a county Department of Health leader what their plan was for all the bodies (when you do your own research, you will see that during the 1918 flu on which they are modeling this one, thousands upon thousands of people died in a very short period of time – it was ugly). She smiled (she was all over this one – she thought) and said, “We have 2,000 body bags and are trying to order 20,000 more but they are very hard to get right now.”

I said, “Yes, but what is your plan for when you fill 10,000 of those bags in 48 hours – what are you going to do with the now full bags of rotting bodies?”

She blanched. She had not thought that far ahead. I don’t think that’s too far ahead. They are playing checkers when they should be playing chess.

They have tested “anti-virals” like Tamiflu on the Southeast Asians who got this flu and they do not work. Look it up. So why are our congress critters constantly crowing (alliteration) about how they are doing such a good job for us by getting X million dollars worth of Tamiflu stocked up and have gotten grants for X million more dollars of Tamiflu. It doesn’t work. The game has progressed but they are still thinking about a strategy three moves back. Checkers.

These people are very good at tossing numbers around. To a large degree, they are very comfortable with numbers. At the national level, they know how many hospital beds there are, and how many ventilators there are in the country. They know this at the state level too. They also know that for every ventilator there will be X number (let’s say 5) that, if they are put on the ventilator, will live; and, if they are not, will die. I saw a hospital guy stand up and ask a national level leader – “Is the federal government going to give us any guidance on how we prioritize who gets on the ventilator?” The fed replied, “We are leaving that up to the states, blah , blah, blah”. So this guy turns to the State dude on the panel and repeats his question. Oh, the squirming! “Uh, oh, er, you are going to have to make those determinations on a case by case basis considering local factors and variations and blah, blah, blah”. Answer – “No”.

Do you know who is going to get on the ventilator? Whoever gets there first. It is going to be chaos. Picture Katrina on steroids – and all over the place at the same time.

What's the Plan?
Meanwhile, you can bet our betters have a doomsday plan. A little hermetically sealed chamber into which they will march. A sterile place of refuge for them, their physicians, their families, and oh yeah- their security. I bet they also have a plan to reemerge and reestablish society. I bet part of that plan is conscripting the peons to do the rebuilding. Probably plan on paying them with medicine and food.

How does that fit in with your plan?
You do have a plan, don’t you?

You are going to be on your own – get ready.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them. If they really interest me, I may even post them. You can reach me at vikingservices@hotmail.com

Prepared Americans for a Strong America